Once a Middle Ages trading route, Germany’s Romantic Road now winds through 460 kilometres (286 miles) of picturesque landscapes and quaint medieval towns bursting with culture, cuisine and castles.
This road in Southern Germany takes you from Wurzburg to Fussen, and was rebranded as a tourist route in the 1950s. It has attracted starry-eyed foreigners ever since.
While no one says you must pull off at every stop along this German romantic road, the official guide has 29 destinations starting at the elegant Würzburg Residence (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and ending at the dreamy Neuschwanstein Castle (the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s Disney castle).
Below you’ll find details of six towns that I included in my Germany Romantic Road itinerary. Of course there are 23 others you could visit but, in my opinion, these are some of the best.
Touring the Romantic Road - best stops to include
You’ll begin in Wurzburg, a wine-lover’s haven, overflowing with historic stops. Despite the fact that around 85% of the buildings were destroyed by bombs during the Second World War, you can still visit one of Germany’s oldest churches, the Marienkapelle, which was built atop a pagan shrine around 1000 A.D.
The church is part of the Marienberg Fortress, an impressive castle that used to act as the ruling seat of Würzburg prince-bishops. The gorgeous Furstengarten Marienberg, or the Prince’s Garden, was first built in the 1600s and then restored in the 20th century. Not only is the garden stunning, but so are the views of the city from the balcony.
Inside the fortress you can visit the Museum for Franconia - State Museum of Art and Cultural History in Würzburg.
Later you’ll want to walk over the pedestrian-only Old Main Bridge and visit the Hofkirche, a chapel within the Würzburg Residence. It leaves visitors agape daily with its ornate marble and gold statues and detailed frescoes. Of course, the rest of the opulent Residence, one of the most important Baroque buildings in Europe, is worth a visit as well.
To access the most impressive rooms you’ll need to join a 60-minute guided tour but you’ll be glad you did. The Frescoes, stucco works and the mirror hall are mind-blowingly opulent.
TIP: Entry to Wurzburg Residenz costs €7.50 per adult including the guided tour. Tours run 3 times per day during high season.
If you haven’t had enough of churches yet, head over to the impressive Würzburger Dom, where you’ll find the final resting place of bishops in a stained glass crypt.
For art enthusiasts, you can wander through the galleries at the Kulturspeicher, and if you’re interested in a little shopping, the outdoor vendors at the Market Square are sure to have something worth perusing.
Be sure to visit the small museum beside the Town Hall where you can see a diorama depicting the city after the Allied bombing in World War II. It's sobering but a must-see.
When you stop for dinner, you’ll want to order some of Franconia’s signature wine, the Franconia Silvaner. I recommend you head to Stachel, the oldest inn in Wurzburg, dating back to 1413! The food and wine are delicious and on a fine day there’s nothing better than dining al fresco in the courtyard.
Where to stay in Wurzburg
A great choice in the heart of Wurzburg's Old Town is Hotel Wurzburger Hof - click here to check prices
Distance from Wurzburg to Weikersheim: 63 kilometres
Probably the least well-known of my recommended Romantic Road stops, most people go to Weirkersheim for the castle - at least I did.
Weikersheim Castle, once a moated medieval fortress built in the 12th century, was transformed into a palace residence in the 1700s. The grounds and castle are breathtaking, and include notable sites like the Knight’s Hall and adjacent 100-acre orangery.
Much of the furniture in the castle is original, having been preserved for nearly 300 years because the owner outlived his son and heir, and therefore the castle went into state custody. Most visitors, however, can’t stop talking about the peaceful and ornate Versailles-inspired gardens.
Keep in mind that the guided tours are in German, but you’ll get a printed guide in English that will fill you in on most of the details.
To find a castle as impressive as this in such a small town is incredible and I think that’s what adds to its charm.
And as Weikersheim isn’t one of the ‘top stops’ on the Romantic Road, it’s also a lovely place to eat lunch without the crowds and get an authentic German meal.
You can then walk off your lunch with a wander around the pretty streets lined with pastel-coloured buildings and admire the town’s other highlights which include the pretty Market Square, St. George’s Church and the ‘Blue Cap’, built in 1390 as a fortified prison tower.
TIP: Weikersheim Palace is open daily year round, except December 24 and 31. Entry costs €6.50 for adults which includes a guided tour (hourly from 1 April to 31 October, in German only).
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Distance from Weikersheim to Rothenburg ob der Tauber: 35 kilometres
This quaint town is like a portal through time, transporting you back to Medieval Germany. Those wise enough to stay the night get to see Rothenburg sans (most) tourists, and feel a special kind of magic in the evening and early morning hours.
During one of those late-evening/early-morning strolls, head over to the Plönlein, a fairytale square with cobblestone-streets and Disney-worthy buildings. This is where most Rothenburg pictures on Instagram come from, and you can enjoy it without the crowds.
Or you might want to take a 2.5 kilometre walk around the town’s medieval walls and soak in the fairytale views from above.
Then, once the crowds start coming, go shopping! Rothenburg has plenty of lovely boutiques selling far more than just cheesy souvenirs.
If you choose to visit in the off-season, you can visit Rothenburg’s Christmas Market at Marktplatz, but if it’s not the holiday season, pay a visit to the German Christmas Museum instead.
Other things to do include a visit to the Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum - disturbing, but interesting nonetheless - and St. Jacob’s Church which houses the 500-year-old wood-carved altarpiece by Tilman Riemenschneider.
Alt-Rothenburger Handwerkerhaus is a museum inside a well-preserved 13th-century home filled with artifacts to give you a glimpse into daily life in medieval Germany.
Finally, your stay wouldn’t be complete without trying the signature food of Rothenburg, a schneeball. It’s more or less fried pastry dough, sometimes topped with chocolate, that has recently come under fire as being “too hyped up.” But can you visit Rothenburg and not at least try it?
Where to stay in Rothenburg
I love the stylish Hotel Herrnschlösschen just around the corner from Market Place - click here to check prices
Distance from Rothenburg ob der Tauber to Dinkelsbuhl: 45 kilometres
Rothenburg isn’t the only town on the Romantic Road map with nearly-unspoiled Medieval German architecture. Dinkelsbul has its share of colorful Instagram-worthy gatehouses in its Old Town, as well as its own wall with prominent towers that have survived some 800 years and all its wars.
If you happen to visit in mid-July, you may see Kinderzeche, a celebration honoring the children who, legend has it, prevented the destruction of Dinkelsbuhl during the 30 Years War by pleading with the Swedish King.
To learn more about the city’s history, visit the Haus der Geschichte which houses a museum filled with artifacts and information of interest.
Want to walk through an old moat? The Stadtpark gardens peacefully weave around what once protected the city from intruders.
The city’s walls also include two Tors (towers) - the Rothenberger Tor and Segringer Tor - both are worth a look. While the Rothenberger has stood for 600 years, the Segringer was rebuilt after damage in the 16th century, so it features a unique Baroque onion dome that sticks out in the Medieval village.
The Weinmarkt, a quaint town square surrounded by beautiful Medieval German buildings and cafes, houses a farmer’s market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings where you can purchase local goods and treats.
One of the most impressive buildings in the city is St. George’s Minister. You can pay a nominal fee to climb to the top of the late Gothic hall church built in 1448 for stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
Other notable buildings to look at include The Hezelhof Hotel, a 16th-century patrician house, and the Deutsches Haus with its ornate exterior woodwork. Elsewhere in the city the kid-friendly 3D Museum features plenty of interactive exhibits, and sits inside Nördlinger Tor, a 1400s watermill.
There’s a real rivalry between Dinkelsbuhl and Rothenburg and, I must say, whilst Dinkelsbuhl is incredibly pretty, Rothenburg wins for me. Dinkelsbuhl isn’t a car-free town like Rothenburg (mostly) is and the constant flow of cars driving (often, quite fast) up and down the streets whilst we were there certainly took the shine off our visit.
It’s definitely worth a visit but if you plan on visiting both towns and have a choice, visit Dinkelsbuhl first and you’ll then appreciate the car-free Rothenburg even more. And let me know if you agree with me!
Where to stay in Dinkelsbuhl
Perfectly located on Weinmarket Square is Hotel Deutsches Haus - click here to check prices
Distance from Dinkelsbuhl to Augsburg: 142 kilometres
It might be the largest town on the Romantic Road but Augsburg is worth a visit for its many architectural delights including grand palaces and patrician houses adorned with Baroque and Renaissance facades.
Start in the Old Town where, taking centre stage in one of Germany’s oldest cities, is the Augsburger Town Hall which dates back to 1615. This imposing Renaissance structure features a Golden Hall, so named because of its golden guilded wooden ceiling. It’s also home to some impressive murals.
Next, head to the twin-towered St. Mary’s Cathedral where you’ll find five Romanesque stained glass windows dating back to 1065. These ‘prophet windows’ are believed to be the oldest glass painted series in the world. The cathedral also features Roman walls, delicate frescoes and a Romanesque crypt.
You can’t visit Augsburg without hearing the name Fugger mentioned so to learn more about the city’s most famous family head to The Fuggerei.
Founded in 1521, wealthy banker Jacob Fugger built 140 flats to house local impoverished Catholic families. It remains the oldest existing social housing settlement in the world. Even today, residents pay an annual rent of just 88 cents - but they must pray three times a day for the founder and his family!
The adjoining Fuggerei Museum details the history of the social housing project.
Another of the city’s wealthy residents, Liebert von Liebenhofen, had the Schaezler Palace built as his residence in 1770. Its crowning glory is the stunning Rococo ballroom - the ceiling is breathtaking - which is now Germany’s most significant baroque gallery. It houses exquisite paintings and art, including works by Rubens and Tiepolo.
There are a number of other significant sights in Augsburg, too. These include the onion-domed St.Ulrich’s Church, the many fountains dotted along Maximilian Strasse (known as ‘the imperial mile’), the pretty gabled houses around Moritz Square and the Augsburg Puppet Museum.
Don’t be put off by its size - Augsburg has plenty of ‘romantic’ qualities that make it a worthy inclusion in your Germany itinerary.
Download a map of Augsburg on this link.
Where to stay in Augsburg
Just a 5-minute walk from the Town Hall is the superbly appointed Steigenberger Drei Mohren - click here to check prices
Distance from Augsburg to Fussen: 135 kilometres
At last - you’re here! Perhaps the most-hoped-for part of the entire Romantic Road, Fussen sits at the foot of the Bavarian Alps and is best known for the nearby dreamy Neuschwanstein Castle.
But believe it or not, that castle isn’t the only one near Fussen - for an entirely different architectural wonder, you’ll want to pay a visit to Hohenschwangau. This less-imposing structure features cliche battlements and is the birthplace of King Ludwig II, who later began building the much-more-famous Neuschwanstein Castle.
Sadly, Ludwig was found dead - presumably from suicide - before his castle was completed.
Still to this day, Neuschwanstein is not entirely complete, but it attracts more than a million visitors annually (so keep this in mind when planning!).
But castle-hopping is far from the only thing to do in Fussen.
Down at the town centre you’ll find those charming buildings you saw in Dinkelsbuhl and Rothenburg (which is why you’re on the Romantic Road, right?), but for a truly magnificent adventure, you can take a cable car up to Tegelberg and admire the views of the valleys and mountains all around.
In fact, after an entire drive dedicated to historical structures, Fussen is a great place to enjoy the natural beauty that’s been around since the dawn of time. There’s hiking, biking, skiing (in winter), or if you’re in the mood to relax, take a peaceful cruise on Lake Forggensee.
Where to stay in Fussen
For a comfortable stay in a great location, you can't go past Hotel Schlosskrone - click here to check prices
How long should you allow to drive the complete route?
While you could drive the entire 460 kilometres of the Romantic Road in one day, that wouldn’t give you any time to stop and visit any towns or enjoy all the sites on your Romantic Road Germany itinerary.
Instead, start in Wurzburg and then stay the night in Rothenburg ob der Tauber and your next night in Augsburg, and you can spend three full days enjoying your trip to Fussen.
I think three days is just about enough time to hit all the major attractions, although you could easily spend more time depending on how long you want to explore the larger towns on the road.
Can you travel the Romantic Road by train or bus?
While renting a car is definitely the best way to travel the romantic road, there are trains and buses that can take you along the route, too.
Romantic Road Germany by train
There is not one train that travels the entire route, and you won’t be able to stop in every town since some do not have a station, or don’t have a connection to the next stop.
For example, you can get from Wurzburg to Weikersheim via rail, and from Wurzburg to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, but not from Weikersheim to Rothenburg. So in order to take the train you’d either have to go to Weikersheim, back to Wurzburg, and then to Rothenburg, or skip Weikersheim altogether.
Check timetables and ticket prices by clicking here
Romantic Road Germany by bus
From April to October (on Wednesdays and Saturdays*), the Romantic Road Coach runs between Frankfurt and Munich, covering the majority of the route excluding Fussen, which is connected by train. The southbound bus departs from Frankfurt at 9am and Wurzburg at 10.35am, and takes about 12 hours to reach Munich (if you follow it all in one day).
The northbound bus departs Munich at 8.30am and arrives in Frankfurt at 7.30pm.
*An additional service runs on Sundays from mid-May to early-September.
You can get off anywhere you’d like, stay the night, and then catch the bus the next day (at the same time it dropped you off).
You can also piece together regular regional buses, or stop in larger towns and take public transit out to the small villages and back in again, but of course that gets more complicated.
Day tours to the Romantic Road
If you are staying in Munich or Frankfurt and would like to visit the area on a day trip, there are a number of Romantic Road Germany tours to choose from. Some of the most popular Romantic Road tours include:
- Romantic Road from Munich: Rothenburg and Harburg Castle - click here to check prices
- Romantic Road and Rothenburg from Munich - click here to check prices
- Day trip to Rothenburg from Frankfurt - click here to check prices
Tips for driving the Romantic Road in Germany
- Book your rental car in advance to ensure you get the best rates. Click here to get a free quote from Rentalcars.com
- Pick up a Romantic Road map from the Tourist Office in Wurzburg before you start. The route is signposted but it’s easy to ‘lose’ signs in traffic, etc. so having a map to follow is handy.
- You can follow the route in either direction. I've chosen a north to south route above but you can reverse the order if it suits you better.
- Lots of towns have car-free centres so look for parking signs as you approach town. Minimal parking fees usually apply but many ticket machines accept both cash and card payments.
- Allow more time than you think you’ll need at each stop. It’s easy to become bewitched by the beauty of a town and linger longer than expected over a coffee or browsing the shops. Likewise, road works can cause delays and extend the journey time, so factor this in when you are planning your Romantic Road itinerary.
- Whilst it’s not a requirement of most car rental companies, all foreigners driving in Germany should hold an International Driving Permit. In the case of an accident or being stopped by police, failure to present an IDP can result in heavy fines. Read more about IDPs on this link.
- Even in tourist towns, many shops and services are closed on Sundays. Fuel stations usually have pumps that accept credit cards but if you are uncomfortable using these, I recommend you fill up your tank on Saturday.
No matter whether you visit all or just some of these towns when you tour Germany's Romantic Road, I'm sure they will leave a lasting impression. Enjoy your drive!
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